A few weeks ago there was a career fair at Chalmers-which my colleague Divia blogged about as well-that brought companies from all sectors together under one roof, and gave us a chance to get to know them. I was strolling through the career fair with a friend, discussing the possibility of having to work with any one of the companies that were present there. It was then I realized a distinct difference between my perception of career and that of my friend’s.
I felt that my friend, being a Swede, was very particular about what she wants to work on and how the operations of that company affect the society and the environment. Now this was not something new; corporate-social responsibility is an age old discussion that originated from the idea that corporations should shoulder responsibility in saving th environment. The fragile promise of ‘giving back to the society’ has lingered on our minds, since the time we first heard about ozone depletion as twelve year olds. But that is where the problem lies; the discussion never came out of the drawing rooms, and the promise never materialised. In the part of the world I come from, career is something that you strive to set up when you are young, and then scuffle to protect against demolition for the better part of life. It is not only about making money, as most would believe, it is about spending your time to shape-up some form of a professional life among cut-throat competition, and testing work conditions. It is about surviving; scampering through piles of crap to look for a slim chance where you think you can make yourself useful. Nowhere in the list of priorities, would you see a sense of responsibility towards society; not even the slightest thought of, how the paper factory I work for is killing trees, or how the oil company operations are interfering with the eco-system. Environmental protection is like a notion left for National Geographic Channel to cater to or a mess for Captain Planet, the cartoon character, to deal with.
At Chalmers and in Sweden, I have felt more alive and conscious about my surroundings through such experiences. Never ever I had been particular about sorting the garbage and recycling, for instance. I do not blame the people that come from similar backgrounds as mine; no one cares about the forests when there is no bread at home. But those of us who enjoy the luxury of being educated, and have the opportunity to work in more cultured and socially responsible environments, should re-align our lifestyle and rearrange our priorities. It is sad to see, how some foreign students still remain alien to the fact that career choices and lifestyle are a major way of affecting the society and the environment. Being a part of the Swedish society is very educating, if we observe such subtleties. I hope that in my professional life, I think with a wider horizon and understand the broad spectrum of consequences my career can have on the world around me. May be then, if I go back home, I can try to transform the perception of social responsibility from something that you see in “Captain Planet” to something that one can affect with the choices he makes in everyday life.